"Farewell, My Planet"
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artists: Ron Lim(p), Scott Koblish(i), Avalon's Rob Ro(c)
No insult to Ron Lim, Scott Koblish and Rob Ro, whose artwork has bowled me over through the entirety of Avengers Next, but this issue Tom DeFalco is the star. Numerous aspects of writing layer the final chapter of the Avengers Next mini-series. Hopefully this will not be the last Avengers Next project, and Marvel will see fit to give the MC2 Universe an even larger share of the rack. Marvel definitely does need and seems to know that it needs a group of books offering readers an alternative to Civil War. Avengers Next is the second best Avengers book currently being published. The first of course is Marvel Adventures: Avengers.
DeFalco concludes the story in a satisfying, unshocking manner. Certainly a number of surprises spring up, but these arise from natural plot twists and the characters’ strategies rather than Big Stupid Events or an incompetent writer’s hubris. I should point out that based upon the credits Avengers Next is apparently written in the Marvel way. So, Ron Lim deserves some credit for this enjoyable, ingenious romp dovetailing from last year's Last Planet Standing.
Despite being the conclusion to a five chapter book, DeFalco writes in a manner that suggests the story is self-contained. In other words, a person who had just gotten the hint and picked up Avengers Next would still understand what went on and what led up to the finale. Those that followed Avengers Next from the beginning will find a more rewarding experience, but newcomers will be entertained. They will still see excellent examples of the Avengers' teamwork and enjoy a diverse cast of characters with differing personalities and heroes who act like heroes to save the world, rather than inexplicably war against each other over a simple, ancient plot-device.
DeFalco facilitates the stand-alone nature of the conclusion by including expository dialogue, but this does not drag down the story. Rather it serves to heighten the suspense. He describes the stakes at risk. The dialogue furthermore opens the reader to the quirks of each character and their goals. DeFalco does the same in meaningful narration that substitutes for dialogue when the characters plausibly cannot speak.
Avengers Next plays on history, but the reader unfamiliar with Avengers history will not feel lost. The allusions to the older incarnation of the Avengers' past cases need little explanation due to the illustration of their impact. The villainess announces herself, and explains why her presence is so delicious an irony. At least, she seems to think so. Given her ego, the explanation suitably connects to her characterization and foreshadows her defeat. The Avengers wipe the floor with her and her minions. She follows a grand tradition started by her father.
The plot's rational elegance combines with the intricacies of the characters. American Dream bottles her self-doubting and becomes the leader that she was born to be. Saberclaw undeniably proves his allegiances. J2, the son of Juggernaut, displays his toughness and courage. Mainframe exhibits his willingness to self-sacrifice. Kate Power underlines the meaning of her name. Spider-Girl adds her humanity to the mix, and Kevin Masterson, son of Thunderstrike, along with Thena, daughter of Thor defeat their foes not through just godly might but also cunning in battle.
Avengers Next is easily the most underrated series Marvel produced in the year 2006-2007. Even White Tiger received scant hype. Avengers Next was barely promoted. Don't let this series fly beneath your radar. Nuanced with nostalgia, the story is excellent. The art bares the sensibilities of proportion, scale and super-powered kinetics, but done in a stylish manner that demonstrates the maturity of a well-known comic book penciler.
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